Racer Sessions

Sundays, 8-10pm at Cafe Racer in Seattle, WA

Andrew Olmstead - September 1, 2013


Unfortunately the scheduled curator couldn’t make it this week, but I’m happy to toss together a curation this week to cover. I’ve been working on the music for less than a week, but the ideas have been in my head for a very long time. Time to talk about something very important to me:


When I finish writing a piece of music, I always let it sit a few days before I come back to review it. Often times, the elements I thought worked don’t feel the way I thought they would, or something I didn’t like before actually works well. The same goes for improvisation. I like listening back on my Racer Session jams few days later, because it usually sounds much different to me. Music ages in weird ways. 

Composing and improvising are complex processes. This is why it takes time for me to examine my own music. Oddly enough, it’s hard for me to focus on listening to music when I have to focus on creating it! That’s right, the act of creating music obscures my impression of how the stuff actually sounds. Based on my conversations with other musicians, this is a common problem. So what does all this have to do with playing cover tunes? 

Playing cover songs helps because it partially changes our perspective from creator to examiner. When we play good music written by other people, we’re still creating sound, but we also get to examine what another person did. Our mind is still active, but in more specific ways. For example, this makes it possible to learn about form without having to worry about melody, tone, counterpoint, etc. By learning the pieces I’m playing this week, I examined lyrical meaning and inner voice movement from other composers without having to worry about many other elements. At the same time, I had a chance to work on creating many different timbres. 

Before each jam this week, talk to the other musicians about what music you’ve been listening to lately for a few minutes. Either do this on stage or beforehand. Don’t rush through this. Please stop thinking about creating and start thinking about what people have been listening to. Afterwards, there’s no need to consciously incorporate the discussion into the improvisation. I suspect the discussion will affect the improv positively anyways. This week, I’ll be playing five melancholy pieces written by other people:

Harmonies - Erik Satie

Little Birdie - Traditional

Old Heap - Evan Woodle

I Think It’s Going to Rain Today - Randy Newman

Prière - Erik Satie